Midnight’s been a band that’s been on my radar for quite a while, their prolific underground reputation gradually building a decent audience, more and more people attracted to the Cleveland band’s raucous combination of Motörhead and Venom. Well, by “band” I mean a one-man project by Jamie “Athenar” Walters, who plays all instruments on all recordings. However, they’re an honest-to goodness live band too, and a year after I named the debut full-length Satanic Royalty one of the best metal albums of 2011, I was lucky enough to witness the trio in concert, and was blown away by not only how potent this music sounds in a live setting, but just how insane the crowd went for it. Walters is able to tap into that primal side of heavy metal, and whether it’s a swift d-beat, a swaggering riff, or some good, old-fashioned blasphemy, there’s something innately appealing about it all. When it came to the much-anticipated follow-up, though, I wasn’t expecting anything more than what I heard on the last album, which would’ve suited me just fine. What Walters came up with on No Mercy For Mayhem, much to my surprise, is something a lot richer and more nuanced than ever before. This might be metal in its mindset and image, but more than anything else what you hear on this record is rock ‘n’ roll at its most ferocious. The production is clearer without depriving the music of its grit, the riffs are catchier than anything Walters has written before. Lyrically, it’s a great example of someone fully understanding the fun of blasphemy and the silliness of Satanic shtick. It’s a riot. Best of all, though there’s a sense of flashiness in the solos, to the point where I’d compare this to the stylistic leap Turbonegro made on the classic Apocalypse Dudes album in 1998. It’s a total Hanoi Rocks vibe Walters brings to this extraordinary, raucous piece of work, and that touch pushes the music over the top. It’s the best pure rock ‘n’ roll album of the year, bar none.